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Shirley—Registered nurse
Regional Victoria

I retired not long before COVID and I watched, debating if I should return to nursing. I received a letter to inform me I was on the sub-register which would allow nurses who had recently stopped working to return to nursing as a way of helping to cover the shortage of nurses because of the pandemic. I thought carefully as I felt guilty because I had retired. However the reasons for my retirement—increasing arthritis and hearing loss—still existed. The cataracts that had limited my vision had been removed, but I still did not like driving at night. After much careful thought I decided my time in nursing was over.

But I thought each day about my nursing colleagues and how they were managing. I had been diagnosed with breast cancer just before COVID so I had regular appointments at a breast cancer centre. I saw snippets of what they were facing when I had outpatient appointments. I saw the suits, masks and face covers they had to work in and I imagined these would be so uncomfortable and hot.

As a person with hearing loss, I use lip reading to help me understand. Communication was so difficult with everyone in masks but I understood the need for them and there is always a way. I found all staff were generally helpful and words I could not understand were usually written down for me.

I decided my role was to be a member of the public, to observe government directives related to COVID, to wear my mask as required and encourage friends to do so. I also lined up to be vaccinated and to have boosters. I did not like it, but I accepted social isolation as a way of reducing the spread of the virus.

As an outsider looking in, everyone seemed to be managing reasonably well. But I was sure there was another story—the impact of long hours, difficult conditions and the need to appear to be coping well whether they were or not. I knew from my own nursing experience that nurses are generally resilient and very good at managing even in the most difficult of circumstances—but this is also stressful.

I wish to thank those nurses who worked through the pandemic and coped with the suits and masks and long hours. I think you are all wonderful. But I will never be among you again—my time in nursing has passed.